Chrissy Crowley,
Chrissy Crowley
(Offshore Gael, 2006)

After several years spent visiting the Canadian Maritimes and soaking up the rich fiddle tradition there, you come to know the names of power that summon an immediate impression of musical excellence. Look for MacMaster, MacIsaac, Fraser, MacDonald, Chisholm, MacGillivray, Rankin and -- well, the list does go on a bit. I'm pleased to add a new one to the list: Crowley.

Christine Crowley is a young Margaree fiddler who, until now, has escaped my notice. Where have you been hiding, Chrissy? She certainly has the fiddling gene that is typically passed down through generations of Maritimes natives; in this case, from her Cape Breton grandfather Archie Neil Chisholm and her Newfoundland grandfather Bill Crowley. Astonishingly enough, this 17-year-old fiddler is largely self-taught, observing local fiddlers and listening to home recordings of her formidable ancestors at play before availing herself of the ample opportunities for instruction throughout Cape Breton.

This self-titled CD is a shining example of the heart and backbone of the East Coast tradition. That means the tune sets are drawn primarily from Scottish and Irish sources, with local compositions standing proudly among them. The arrangements feature Chrissy's deft hand on fiddle, with support from the standard backing duo of piano and guitar. And, if it's possible to judge a musician by the people who surround and support her, Chrissy has a long and rich career ahead of her; produced by local music legend Fred Lavery, the recording boasts the musical talents of Troy MacGillivray and Ryan MacNeil on piano and Patrick Gillis, Tim Chaisson, Gordie Sampson, Brian Doyle and Pius MacIsaac on guitar. It's a "Who's Who" of grand Cape Breton proportions.

The nine instrumental tracks are expertly played, without the bells and whistles dominating so many young performers' music these days. As such, it's an immensely satisfying package.

I'll be back in Cape Breton in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps I should spend a bit more time in Margaree.

by Tom Knapp
9 June 2007

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